Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

PM Bill English: Migrant levy 'interesting idea' but high bar to meet

Prime Minister Bill English said there would have to be a lot of discussion before any new levy or tax became a reality. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Bill English said there would have to be a lot of discussion before any new levy or tax became a reality. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister Bill English will not rule out a levy on new migrants to pay for infrastructure, but says any new levy would have to meet a high bar.

The proposal of a special levy was included in the New Zealand Initiative's report on the impact of immigration on New Zealand. It noted that while overall migrants had a beneficial impact on New Zealand, there was increased pressure on infrastructure such as schools, health care and roads.

It said that created pressure on local councils and Government.

English said it was an "interesting idea."

"I think the bar for any new levy is pretty high. If you're going to bring in a new levy or tax, there has to be a very good reason for it, so there would have to be a lot of discussion before we got to that point. But we certainly are committed to building the infrastructure to support the growth in population."

He said some of that growth was migration, but it was also because fewer New Zealanders were moving overseas.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse did not believe a migrant levy would work or that it was needed.

"A lot of migrants are temporary, so if you're talking about a levy what you're saying is that a German working holiday [scheme participant] has to pay for something they wouldn't benefit from in the future.

If you're saying it should only be on those who become permanent residents, then it's double paying because if they are here permanently they will make a meaningful contribution through their taxes."

He said an updated 2013 study by BERL economists Ganesh Nana and High Dixon showed the value of migrants to the economy was $2653 on a per capita basis - much higher than native-born New Zealanders ($172 per person).

- NZ Herald

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